Print’s charming

Despite rumours to the contrary, print media is not dead. In fact, in certain sectors it is alive and well and enjoying something of a renaissance.

Yes, newspaper sales figures – and those of regionals and weeklies in particular – appear to be in freefall. When we want news, we can log on to the internet and read the very latest developments as they happen, and we can do so not only from our home computer but from our phone or tablet, wherever we are and whenever we need to.

Consumer magazines, too, have fallen by around 6% according to the latest ABC figures. It seems our appetite for celebrity gossip is waning – or we are simply looking elsewhere to discover the name of Taylor Swift’s latest boyfriend. Among the biggest losers were Glamour (down 25.6%), Heat (down 16.5%) and OK, down a massive 31.4%.

However, there are some unexpected winners which have seen sales figures soar. Of the 367 titles assessed, 130 actually went up year-on-year. And it’s something of an eclectic mix – Garden Answers almost doubled its circulation with a 41% rise, The Times Literary Supplement was up 27% and Peppa Pig’s Big Bag of Fun enjoyed an increase of 17.6%.

Sharp price increases will always turn readers away; fresh, new, lively ideas will always go down well. And amid these rather disparate facts and stats, one trend can be identified. With the possible exception of Peppa Pig most of the titles enjoying growth provide readers with quality analysis and good old-fashioned investigative journalism.

Our appetite for informed debate and intelligent dissemination of current affairs has not diminished. It may be a reflection of today’s serious issues – Brexit, the Trump administration, terror attacks and the Grenfell Tower disaster to name but a few – but readers are seeking a deeper understanding of the news agenda. Who would have thought that Donald Trump would be a better cover choice than Kim Kardiashian…

Also holding their own are the high-end luxury titles. Last year’s centenary issue of Vogue was the biggest yet, with advertising taking up 264 of the 464 pages. Luxury brands wanted to be part of it as they knew their competitors would be; meanwhile, readers love to be transported to a different world by the feel of thick, glossy pages and the smell of the ink.

In the B2B world, many titles are now digital-only, or at least offer a digital issue. Seeking to minimise costs while underlining their ‘green’ credentials, swapping paper issues for online ones has the added benefit of being accessible to readers around the globe. No longer do copies have to be posted out to subscribers, the magazine can be accessed anywhere and at any time with the click of a mouse.

Another area enjoying a resurgence is printed collateral. The advent of 3D printing has opened up a world of possibilities, from stunning art installations (see Applelec’s The Ribbon) to smaller versions of pumping equipment produced by Weir Minerals.

Print specialists such as Paragon Customer Communications now have the ability to produce a huge range of interactive collateral that can be pulled out, popped out and personalised – who wouldn’t want a pop-up postman to appear in the centre of a Royal Mail leaflet, or an expanding goal to advertise football on Sky?

The company was tasked with producing engaging and relevant consumer information to tell customers about offers and to signpost products. Above all, the communications needed to be of high quality to reflect the nature of the brand. Paragon produced a personalised ‘All Yours’ digitally printed booklet with content that was extremely relevant to customers, with appropriate personalised vouchers for each consumer, based on their profile, as a reward for visiting their nearest store.

While there are undoubtedly strong arguments for exclusively digital publications, sustainability and reduced costs in particular, the writing is far from on the wall for print media.

By Kate Wobschall.

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